Column by John Fulton

Oct. 12: Crops continue to pour in

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Bin-busting harvest means more temporary storage     Send a link to a friend

[OCT. 12, 2004]  URBANA -- This year's bin-buster harvest is making the use of temporary grain storage a critical issue for the farming community.

"We've got record crops coming out," said Jay Solomon, University of Extension educator. "Yield is up this year, anywhere from 20 to 50 bushels per acre, and grain storage is filling up quickly."

While increased yield is a welcome problem for most producers, Solomon said it is important for them to think through their options for temporary storage. The two most common solutions are modifying existing farm buildings to store grain or storing grain outside.

In an existing building, Solomon said it is important to start with a solid surface that can be kept clean and dry. That means there should be no chemicals or oils on the floor that could cause contamination or odor and no moisture that could migrate up into the grain.

Also, because most farm buildings are not designed to withstand the loading that grain exerts on the wall, it's important to prepare the building correctly and not overload it. Solomon recommends an article by Kenneth Hellevang of North Dakota State entitled "Temporary Grain Storage." It's available on the Web at http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/
ageng/grainsto/ae84-1.htm
.

According to Solomon, "Ken's piece tells you, ‘If you have a certain type of building, here's what it will sustain, and here are some things you can do to add to it.'"

Aeration is another important factor in temporary grain storage, Solomon said. Moisture content and grain temperature determine whether grain should be stored with or without aeration.

"This year, we've got pretty warm grain coming into storage," he said. "The ambient temperatures are running mid-60s to low 70s. So if producers are starting into temporary storage right now, they need to be thinking about cooling that grain down."

If moisture content is less than 15 percent, grain can be held in storage for extended periods of time without aeration. At 16 percent, corn held at a constant temperature of 50 degrees F with aeration can be stored for six months.

For every point of moisture above 16 percent, the shelf life of corn decreases by about one month. For every 10-degree increase in temperature, the shelf life decreases by about half.

"Holding Wet Corn with Aeration," a guide from the University of Nebraska, offers a chart showing the shelf life of grain over a range of moisture contents and temperatures. It can be found at http://ianrpubs.unl.edu/farmbuildings/g862.htm.

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If grain is to be stored outside, Solomon recommends cooling the grain prior to piling, in order to reduce condensation problems. Because drainage is crucial, place grain on high ground, preferably on a limestone or concrete pad. Grain can also be stored directly on the ground if plastic is put down to keep soil moisture from migrating up into the grain.

Portable bulkheads, which can be built or purchased, or concrete bumpers, can be used for sidewalls. Cover the grain pile with plastic or a tarp to minimize damage from rain, snow, wind and birds.

Because condensation under the tarp can cause problems, one conventional practice uses a hoop structure to keep space between the plastic and the grain to reduce condensation and carry moisture away. Aeration ducts, properly sized and spaced, can be used to blow air through the grain.

A good resource for engineering an aeration system, indoors or out, is the MidWest Plan Service publication "Dry Grain Aeration Systems Design Handbook," available at http://www.mwpshq.org (on Page 14 of online catalog). [To download the Adobe Acrobat Reader for the PDF catalog file, click here.]

When it comes to aerating grain stored outside, Solomon recently learned of a new approach.

"Instead of blowing air into the grain," he said, "some of the grain companies have developed a way to draw air out of the grain pile. They run a perforated tile pipe in the upper part of the pile that's open to the outside as the air inlet. Fans are hooked up to aeration ducts on the bottom to draw air down and out, and that creates a vacuum which helps hold the tarp down."

Whether storing grain inside or out, "A good rule of thumb is to put the cleanest grain into temporary storage," said Solomon, "because it has fewer insects and less weed seeds. It's just easier to keep clean grain in good condition."

Finally, he added, the grain placed in temporary storage should be the last in and the first out. "Fill all your other options before you go to temporary storage," he said. "Then, when you start moving things back out, empty the grain in temporary storage before you start on the permanent."

For more information on temporary grain storage, Purdue has compiled a list of links to a number of state publications on temporary storage alternatives. That list can be found at http://pasture.ecn.purdue.edu/~grainlab/exten-pubs.htm. For answers to specific questions, contact Solomon at (309) 694-7501 or jssolomo@uiuc.edu.

[University of Illinois news release]

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